Football season is back, and one of our best traditions is back along with it: the Streaking The Lawn ACC Pick ‘Em Challenge. If you haven’t signed up yet, you really should. It’s a great opportunity to compete against your fellow readers and our merry staff of STL writers. Learn more about it here and sign up here.
Each week, I’ll use this column to discuss the upcoming ACC games and deliver some "helpful insight" as we all make our picks for the weekend. I don’t remember exactly how I did last year...but it wasn’t pretty. I’m confident this year will be different.
Category 1: Games Against FCS Opponents
NC State vs. William & Mary (no spread)
Syracuse vs. Colgate (no spread)
Virginia Tech vs. Liberty (no spread)
Pittsburgh vs. Villanova (no spread)
Virginia vs. Richmond (no spread)
Duke vs. NC Central (no spread)
Miami vs. Florida A&M (no spread)
We’re going to see plenty of these games in the next few weeks as most teams ease into their seasons. As I mentioned last season, it’s extremely rare that an FCS team will beat an FBS team, but it’s not impossible. Virginia, Duke, Michigan, and others have all lost to FCS teams over the years.
Each of the ACC’s four new head coaches will kick of their tenures against FBS opponents. Unfortunately, the most intriguing match-up here is Virginia against Richmond. UVA is breaking in a new system, a new quarterback, a new entrance video...you name it, it’s new. Richmond has an experienced team and is ranked 4th in the FCS to start the season. Virginia should win, but don’t be surprised if the score is closer than fans would like.
Category 2: FBS Laughers
Wake Forest is a 17-point favorite at home against Tulane
#19 Louisville is a 38-point favorite at home against Charlotte
How bad must Tulane be to be a 17-point underdog against Wake Forest? The Deacons are now in year 3 of the Dave Clawson era, but the first two years were solely dedicated to rebuilding. Wake has a generous schedule this year and could go bowling. Junior quarterback John Wolford has 22 starts under his belt.
As bad as Tulane must be, Charlotte could very well be the worst FBS team in the country. In fact, they have the lowest Sagarin rating of any FBS team to start the season. 38 is a TON of points to give up, but Louisville returns 17 starters from a year ago I think the Cardinals could win by 40 or more.
Category 3: Games That Will Tell Us Something
Georgia Tech is a 3-point favorite against Boston College in Ireland
#22 North Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog against #18 Georgia in Atlanta
#2 Clemson is a 7.5-point favorite on the road against Auburn
#4 Florida State is a 4-point favorite at home against #11 Ole Miss
The ACC has a chance to make a big statement with three matchups against the SEC in Week 1. The SEC remains the undisputed college football conference king, but the ACC has started to burnish its own reputation in recent years. The suits in Greensboro would love nothing more than for FSU, UNC, and Clemson to go 3-0 this weekend.
All eyes in Tallahassee will be on quarterback Deondre Francois and running back Dalvin Cook. Francois, a redshirt freshman, is making his first start under center and he’ll face a stout Rebel defense. Cook, of course, might be the best running back in the country. I tend to think the Noles will have too much for Ole Miss to beat them at home.
An Auburn upset over Clemson would be a game-changer for both programs. But I just don’t see it happening. Clemson is too good on offense to get tripped up on opening weekend. That said, I’m looking for Auburn to cover. Jordan-Hare should rock Saturday night and the home team will keep it close throughout.
Finally, the Georgia-Carolina game might be the most difficult game to pick this weekend. Make no mistake, this will be a home game for the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome. But the Dawgs will be breaking its new head coach, Kirby Smart. The Tar Heels lost an ugly game against South Carolina to open 2015 before vaulting to the door of the ACC Championship. The Heels won’t come out flat in two openers in a row. I like Carolina plus the points.
Have you signed up for our College Football Pick ‘Em league yet? It’s not too late! Go to Yahoo! and enter in the group ID 4131, with the password "bronco". You can find the full details here. Good luck!